London is full of life and greener than many think. This blog is a celebration of the nature of our Capital and a snapshot of the RSPB London team's work. Visit us weekly or sign up for our RSS feed to keep up to date on events, comment, campaigns and news.If you've got news of London's nature that you'd like to share, contact the RSPB London team on 020 7808 1260 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Moving around London this week has been a joy following the long, dark, cold and wet start to the year. There's been the sweet smell of cut grass in the air around parks and gardens. Sunshine's kissed the soil and drawn crocuses and daffs into bloom, butterflies have decorated the air and birds have sung loudly for mates. I defy anyone not to feel inspired by nature.
London's bursting with nature and although many residents have never visited the countryside, everyone has some affinity with the natural world. The RSPB London team is just one of the many groups in the capital working together to protect what we've got and encourage more of it alongside new homes, roads and other developments. Some battles we win, some we lose and given that we have limited resources, our success rate is high. We can influence and cajole to protect nature, but there are still many things we can't do.
We can't control the weather and we can't force anyone to change the way they live their lives. The former has led to serious issues as a result of the recent storms. Homes have been flooded, lives disrupted and property damaged. The latter is down to every individuals will to want to do something for nature.
All along our southern coastline and across the channel in France, thousands of dead seabirds are being washed-up. It's not disease or pollution that's killed them. They died of exhaustion, worn out battling the storms. Many of those recovered were found in poor condition suggesting they'd also struggled to find food, leaving them in a weakened state and vulnerable.
There's been national debate over managing floods. The truth is we can't prevent floods when there is exceptional rainfall. What we can do is manage landscapes in ways which reduce the damage floods cause. A great example of this is a new report into how restored peat bogs on Exmoor retained water, reducing serious flooding downstream by reducing the amount of run-off by a third. Learning lessons like this and acting upon that knowledge is key to reducing the impact of severe weather incidents. What it amounts to is valuing and keeping or restoring the natural habitats that existed before we removed or damaged them. As an added bonus, these lost or reduced habitats are also what's needed to protect and support our vanishing wildlife.
The RSPB has been busy restoring and creating lost habitats for some time now. We call them nature reserves and yes, in some cases we secured public money to fund this work, which some commentators subsequently claimed was using tax-payers money to support birds at the expense of people. If you've ever visited either our Pulborough Brooks or Cliffe Pools reserves after wet weather you'll notice a lot of water and a lot of birds. You'll probably not notice that surrounding homes aren't flooded so the link isn't made obvious. Right now the finishing touches are being made to Medmerry, which is a major new RSPB site on the Sussex coast, which also happens to offer 7km of flood wall protecting nearby homes and towns from flooding.
London and the Thames Estuary escaped lightly from the unusually heavy rain. Cliffe and other managed sites along the Thames are part of the soft-engineering protecting against flods. The Thames Barrier is part of the hard-engineering solution, along with banks, walls and gates which control and direct high tides. Communities further upstream and west of London were hit badly. Water levels have dropped and those communities are starting to tidy-up. The flood waters carried debris and pollution. Sunshine will kill bacteria left by raw sewage. The soil and its wildlife will take some time to recover but digging in water retaining compost will help restore the balance. However, it's best to leave any digging for a couple of weeks while any bacterial contamination clears. Staying off waterlogged land helps drainage, as it avoids compacting the soil.
As for changing individuals behaviour. That's up to each and every one of us. We are all responsible for our own actions and cannot blame nature when bad things happen. While I feel desperately sorry for the residents of this Stockwell home damaged by a roof fire, I will not blame the bird identified as carrying a smouldering cigarette butt into its nest. Together we can stub-out irresponsible actions.
Our auction of designer made nestboxes has closed.
These creations are one-off masterpieces from the UK's top fashion names. If you were one of the successful bidders, you've bagged a bargain and can relax, safe in the knowledge that you've invested in UK nature.
We're losing our wildlife and more desperately needs to be done to buffer wildlife from the threat of climate change and protect our landscapes from harmful development. If we don't act, we lose species and our habitat becomes degraded at enormous social, economic and environmental cost. I paint an extreme picture here, but many would have us believe that there is no such thing as climate change and that losing species doesn't matter.
Here they all are in all their glory once again:
These nestboxes will never directly give nature a home, but the bidders have contributed more than a couple of thousands pounds to supporting UK wildlife. If you've been inspired to create your own glamourous bird hotel, you can buy one of our boxes, or make your own.
We're hugely grateful to all the designers who gave their time and talents to support this initiative, which was made possible thanks to the mediation of the British Fasion Council.
If you want to support UK wildlife, simply follow some of the free and low-cost actions on our help page. Alternatively, you can make a donation or support us financially.
In our #NestboxAuction Saturday Swapshop we'll give you a one of these brilliant and original nestboxes ... each one beautifully hand decorated by one of the UK's leading fashion designers ... in exchange for a big wad of cash.
OK, it's not a swapshop. It is an auction; but the bit about the world class, big-name celeb designers is true. You can't get bigger than these names - in no particular order: Kiely, Conran, Macdonald, Rhodes, Grant, Hemingway, Deacon, Hamnet, Atkinson, Rocha and Westwood. Their clothes are worn by stars of stage, screen and stadium as well as successful leaders from the worlds of business, industry and science.
Here they've taken humble RSPB nestboxes and created works of art. You could do the same with one of our boxes, or make your own.
If you lust after one of these beauties, you have until the end of Monday morning to register your bid. It being a Saturday, we set the boxes free to enjoy some freerange activity before we have to say goodbye and hand them over to their lucky new owners:
This nestbox auction is a collaboration between the RSPB and the British Fashion Council. All money raised funds projects protecting UK wildlife and making our landscapes more resilient to climate change impacts. Whether it's searing temps or torrential rain, nature can help make it all more manageable. Visit our reserves or look at our website for more information and inspiration to discover nature.